Five of the night lizards have been brought to the zoo by the US Navy.
The US Fish and Wildlife service removed the species from the endangered species list on May 1 2014. Dr Robert Lovich, senior natural resource specialist at Naval Facilities Engineering Command (NAVFAC) SW, Desert Integrated Product Team said, ‘It is one of the few species that visitors to the Zoo will see that was recovered under the Endangered Species Act, and the only one( animal) estimated to occur in the millions on U.S. Navy Lands.’
These lizards are only found on three of the Channel Islands owned by the US government. They are found off the coast of California on San Clemente, San Nicolas and Santa Barbara. They can also be seen on the islet, Sutil Island. The naval command works to protect the species which are found on these training bases.
Capt. Christopher E. Sund, commanding base of Naval Base Corrando said, ‘San Clemente Island is critical to the Navy’s ability to train and prepare sailors to fight in realistic situations. By adaptively managing wildlife like the island night lizard, we can conduct our mission requirements and remain great stewards of our natural resources.’
He was excited that the zoo could share this species, ‘We’re pleased the San Diego Zoo has an opportunity to share this interesting creature with the public.’
Feral goats, pigs, cats and other predators on the island led to the species being listed as endangered in 1977. The last of the goats and pigs were removed in 1992 on San Clemente and ongoing programs seek to remove the rats and cats. Hopefully this will lead to their recovery.
Curator of reptiles at San Diego Zoo, Kim Lovich said, ‘Now that the species is recovered, it is important to ensure its ongoing survival by creating a satellite population away from its island home.’
There are hopes this will sustain the species he said, ‘This satellite population provides insurance that the species will survive even in the event of a sudden natural disaster to its island home.’
Photo Credit: Tammy Spratt, San Diego Zoo Global